Qutb and the Jews

The conventional wisdom says Sayyid Qutb is the forefather of modern-day Islamic fundamentalism. What is less known is how the thinker's intense anti-Semitism and contempt for female sexuality contributed to this vulgar worldview.

Issue: Nov-Dec 2010

John Calvert, Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 377 pp., $29.50.

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THE COVER of John Calvert’s book parades the face that launched a thousand suicide bombers. Sayyid Qutb, the major ideologue of modern, ultraviolent Islamic fundamentalism, is staring through bars, probably during his Cairo trial in April 1966, shortly before his death sentence was pronounced. Bushy eyebrows, a full, dark, graying moustache, large brown eyes, inquisitive, wary, worried. But by some accounts, he was looking forward to his martyrdom: “I have been able to discover God in a wonderful new way. I understand His path and way more clearly and perfectly than before,” he wrote to a Saudi colleague in June. He was hanged by the Nasser regime, along with two fellow Muslim Brotherhood activists, in the early morning hours of August 29.

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